My last post was made before we closed on the house–I’m sorry to have been away for so long!! The month of October absolutely flew by. We are only just now starting to really feel settled into our home. The closing went really smoothly. I took half a day off of work and met up with Jeff and our Realtor at the office where our closing was being hosted. We met the previous owners who seemed like really kind people. The woman was dismayed to find out that I didn’t like pugs as well as she does, and the man let us know that the electrical update was just a partial update. The signing of the paperwork flew by–it took less than an hour to go over everything and then we were presented with our very own keys! Just like that we were home-owners.
We knew going into it that there would be some things to fix around the house, and, being first time home-buyers meant that we didn’t have any of the essentials that we would need to take care of the property. Off we went to the housing store to get the essentials. Mom and Keith picked up a new lock set for us, and we picked up rakes, shovels, ice picks, a furnace filter, broom, push broom, dryer vent cleaning kit, extension cords, paint, rollers, edgers, etc. Over the next few weeks we’d make so many more trips to the hardware store. We had to buy joint compound and mesh tape, hammers, scrapers, chisels, wrenches, dryer vent kits (x2, one of the expandable semi-rigid metal, and another of straight pipe style aluminum). Just when we thought we could afford it, we splurged in a snow blower and a couple of leaf blowers… half an acre isn’t going to take care of itself.
Then we moved in. We had a ton of help and really appreciated all of our family and friends who came out to support us. Our driveways were full of the cars from all of the volunteers. Shout outs go to Eli, Nickola, Wes, Gloria, Mike, Mom, Keith, and Michael. Steph had to work, but sent good vibes anyway :D And to our long distance friends who totally would’ve schlepped boxes on our behalf: Corine, Lori, Ross, Ray, Anne, et al. Thank you so much for sending us your happy vibes.
The first week, things started falling apart. First, it was the water main. The seller’s disclosure said that they had to snake the main every other year for roots… so, I don’t know why, but I expected to be able to wait to do that until next year. Nope. We had water in our basement on day one. On Day 2, we went to clean the dryer vent only to find it so stuffed with lint that it really was better to replace it–and luckily we found it because it was burned through on the back. On Day 3, I had a technician out for our stove which was irreparable, and the home warranty company decided not to cover it. I blew up at my Realtor for misleading us, and she helped us to get a new one. Since I was home, we also had the internet service provider out–who found wires to be chewed through and that’s outside of his scope. When it finally came time to install the replacement stove, I ended up coiling the gas line in on itself because I was a schmuck who didn’t know that you had to use two wrenches. Then we had to buy a new service door because we couldn’t get the new lock set to fit on the old one, which had been rigged. Needless to say, being home-owners was stressful!
We got all of those issues taken care of (thanks go to my very flexible employer for allowing me to work from home while figuring this crap out). That brings us to today. I am working from home because I have (yet another) contractor coming out to take a look at issues that we’re having with this house. When the stove was replaced, it was discovered that the floor was sinking underneath it. This rang alarm bells quite loudly in my head and I told Jeff that we need to prioritize the fix immediately. We knew that there were structural issues with this house, but we didn’t appreciate just how extensive or expensive they would be. The home inspection said that there were “missing or insufficient” supports in our basement, but that we probably wouldn’t have to repair it immediately. The logic was that the house has stood this long, it’s not likely to just fall down tomorrow. The previous owners had lived here for 28 years, and so we listened and thought that we’d eventually fix the structure, but we’d save up for it first. Seeing the floor bowing under the weight of the old stove frightened me, though–what if the new stove falls right through?? And with it being a gas stove, that could cause an explosion on top of it! (I have a really active imagination…)
We brought in a structural engineer to take a look at the place, and he made a lot of recommendations. He even made some thinly veiled suggestions that were outside of his paid scope on things we need to seriously consider for the future as well. I’d say it was worth every penny paid to be able to talk to someone who knew what we would be in for.
Here is one of the photos that was included in the engineer’s report for us. It shows the I-beam (with surface rust), a 6×6 support beam that has been cut to make room for the duct work, and the (empty) masonry pocket that the beam should be sitting in. This is all right below where my stove sits. What adds to the crisis is the fact that there is another 4×4 post that supports a whole corner of my house that has recently been discovered to be splintering at the bottom. And splitting in the middle. And there are two other steel shores that are missing from this set-up.
Now, the United States is a very litigious society. In fact, when Jeff originally moved here, his Canadian insurance provider advised him to seek greater than $1M in coverage in case someone sues him. It’s well documented that our first instinct is to sue. So when these issues became revealed to us, I started plotting my court case. I called the city to get a history of permits pulled on this property, I called my Realtor to explain the situation that we’re now in, I studied both the seller’s disclosure and the inspection report to find problems. I found that the sellers indicated that the structure to this house had *not* been changed.
So here I was, all rarin to go. I was worked into a tissy and determined that the sellers were going to help us shoulder this burden, come hell or high water. And then Jeff piped up. Are we blind? (no.) Stupid? (no.) Naive? (well…) He didn’t ask all of these questions to make his point, but he essentially said that we knew that this house had issues coming into it and that it’s our problem now. We noticed ourselves that there were missing supports, I noticed myself that the beam was cut when we were doing the walk through. Just because we didn’t appreciate how much it was going to cost at the time doesn’t mean that it’s not our fault for buying this house when we knew it had issues. He is of the opinion, and I am in agreement with him, that we bought this house with eyes wide open. We should have done our research before signing on the dotted line, and now it is our responsibility to make sure that it’s done right. To take responsibility for these repairs is not to let the previous owners “walk all over us,” as I had argued, it is merely to own our mistakes and acknowledge that we made the decision to move in here. We’re not stupid, we’re not blind, and we’re not incapable of research, and so there’s no reason for us to try to pin this issue on the sellers when we were aware of it before moving in.
This, dear reader, is where I’ve been all month. I’ve been moving in and cleaning, but mostly fixing our new home. The issues have made me just a tiny bit bitter about the experience, but I am trying to take it for what it is: experience. This is still a lovely home and it will be a great home for many years once we get these issues out of the way. I love the peace and sophistication of my dining room. I enjoyed taking our outdated bathroom and making it our own. The rooms echo with our laughter already and the cats have really settled in–running amok all over the place as often as they like.
If I had a piece of advice to offer a 1st time home buyer (or any home buyer for that matter), it would be this: Get an inspection report and pay close attention to it. If there is no cost for remediation, or if it’s out of the scope of your inspector, take the time to look online (at the very least!) or call around to get an idea of how much a repair is going to cost. It was $168 to have our drains cleared. $120 to have our stove looked at. $1000 to have it replaced. It would’ve been $300 to have it installed if I hadn’t taken on that project. I’m getting bids on it, but it’s going to be close to, if not upwards of $10,000 to have the structural issues fixed… and that doesn’t even begin to cover the electrical or the plumbing. Will it be worth it? Emotionally, sure! It’s a great house that we can really make ours. Financially? Who knows. These are issues that should’ve never been a problem in the first place, so I can’t say that we’ll see a return on our investment. What I *can* say, though, is that fixing these issues will make sure that they don’t count against us if we ever go to sell this house, and having these issues fixed will make us that much more comfortable while we’re living here.